A party is being thrown to welcome Alex back to Los Angeles, and in Larry’s rather lovely looking backyard, he and Tina discuss whether or not it would be weird for her to show up. Larry can’t go with her because he’ll be playing poker with Tom. (Haha, so L.A. not to just give in and say, “I’m playing poker with Tom Hanks!” As we see later, Tina does not have this issue.) Tina decides to skip it and bond with Larry’s No. 1 gal, Sally, a.k.a. that white piece of fluff who (understandably) looks less than thrilled at this turn of fate.
Meanwhile, Michelle becomes completely unspooled when her affair-mate, David, walks in while she’s mid-speech at a charter school meeting. Michelle should most definitely not play poker with Tom Hanks or anyone else. He wants to talk and hops into her car. He tells her that he won’t apologize for how he feels. Michelle tells him she doesn’t want to do this, and David pivots, doing the old hey-we’ll-slow-down thing, but Michelle stays strong and tells him it was a mistake over and over. David goes for the Hail Mary and tells her he loves her, which causes her to completely lose it and to beg him to get out of her car. It’s not easy being Michelle.
But when she gets home and sees her husband helping their daughter put up a sign, her face relaxes, and you can practically see her heart melt. She’s made the right decision in the end, and this seems to give her some serenity. “I’m home,” she says, the extra layer of the meaning on that word understandably lost. But then she and Brett make out, much to the disgust of their daughter.
Tina does some light Facebook stalking of Alex — tons of pictures of him and Christy — and makes a face. She watches Sex and the City, but after the dog knocks over the popcorn (Tina is probably not an animal person) she decides to go to the party after all. She goes for it sartorially, too: white jeans, hair done, sparkly top. But she loses her nerve when she gets to Brett and Michelle’s and starts to turn back before getting busted by Brett, who hurries her inside so they can surprise Alex.
Alex is apparently late, and Tina watches the door like a hawk while Tame Impala’s “Disciples” plays. On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, Brett and Michelle are being almost grossly adorable. But Brett is still able to see that Tina is looking rather glum. He tries to cheer her up by telling her about how, when they were in high school, Brett felt left behind when Alex got a part in a play as a freshman. Tina refuses to break her shiny exterior and plays dumb and says she has no idea what he’s talking about and laughs that big, big laugh that means the lambs are screaming in her poor mind.
Alex apparently is feeling himself just a little too hard (later, we see he has lost all sense of humor about Hollywood, along with his weight) and arrives via limo. The surprise when he walks in seems legit. And, thank goodness — for me and me only — he’s got Christy with him.
Listen, a lot happens in this episode to be sure, but I very much mostly enjoyed the passive-aggressive/aggressive-aggressive Olympics between Tina and Christy. We’re talking world-class athletes here.
First: Tina does the really bright smile thing as Christy explains how, like, she doesn’t really live anywhere. Ginger Gonzaga really nails the perfect mix of vocal fry and millennial uptalk, and whoever did her wardrobe deserves a raise. The juxtaposition of Christy’s super chill and fresh-faced casual sexiness with Tina’s trying-very-hard glam-ness is palpable. Christy blinks at Tina and asks what she does which Tina tries to evade this and spouts a lot of nonsense, and Christy does the amazing burn of, “I love that you are still in it at your age.” That’s like the firing of a canon!
But, you guys, Christy isn’t done. She’s all, “Is this, like, the essence of the party” — an amazing line that I laughed at for five minutes — and takes it upon herself to organize a party game. (To which I say, party game, yuck! But maybe this is why I don’t live in L.A.)
Tina turns to Alex and comments on the aggressive shade thrown by Tina, and Alex either pretends he doesn’t know what she’s talking about or really is so oblivious he actually doesn’t know. This is such an important point because I can never tell if dudes are just out of it or are more observant than they let on. I think the latter. But bros, come at me.
Next: This party turns into a horror movie
So next they sit around in a circle, and it feels like this will be a flaming you-know-what-show — and it totally is!
They’re playing one of those games where you have to have a pretty good working knowledge of movies and actors, and I’m someone who is actually pretty good at this (I am professionally obliged to be), so I feel for Tina who is not and looks like a lost cat who does not like to be laughed at. There’s seat switching and fake, bright “perfect!” exclamations, and it seems as though we are mere moments away from hair pulling when Tina unfortunately decides to dig in and double down on the assertion that Lea Thompson was in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Oh, Tina, no.
Brett and Michelle are no dummies: They peace out to watch from the window as Alex looks like he’d rather be dead than stuck with Christy and Tina. Brett (still on the campaign trail) comes up with a plan of interference. But Michelle is all, nope! They are grownups. Good for her! She declares that they’re going to stay inside, and Brett digs it. She takes them into the bedroom, and they start to go at it like a couple of horny teenagers. Good for them!
Their good times can be overheard in the hallway as Tina is still trying to wrap her head around the John Hughes company players. Christy smirks while Tina gets a blanket, and then there’s a startled horror moment when Christy and Alex realize that Tina intends to also stay over. There’s talk of Ubers and Larry, but Tina is too drunk to hear it and takes her bra off under her shirt, flashing a bit of boob and telling Christy, “He’s already seen them.” Kapow!
Can they give out Oscars for drunk-girl acting? ‘Cause Amanda Peet should win. She grabs Christy and starts being all, Listeeeeeen. “I know this game. I invented this game.” Christy just laughs in her face (great defensive move) and is like, “What are you even talking about?” Finally it all gets to be too much for Alex; and he breaks them up, and Tina storms out with him right behind her.
They start arguing over which is the more embarrassing — her drunken antics versus his Hollywood garbage. I particularly enjoyed it when she’s like, “I made you skinny, and then you lost your soul.” He calls her a trainwreck, and she stomps off to leave after a good, hard shove.
Alex realizes that she shouldn’t be driving and turns in time to see her drive straight into a tree. His anguish when he calls out to her should show us all where his true heart is. She gets out, dazed, and pulls up her pants, and they stare sadly at each other.
Ugh, and then the part I didn’t want to see. We’re back with Brett and Michelle in the great sex afterglow and they’re telling each other how much they love each other and generally celebrating that they’ve arrived at this great place after being so unhappy for so long. Brett says he feels powerful and like they could handle anything. This was the first time I said uh-oh. “Secrets? No, we won’t have those.” Gah. This has turned now into a horror movie as I could barely watch as the great sex and great openness and the crushing guilt has Michelle deciding to tell Brett the truth. Nooooooooo. (I mean, honesty is the best policy.)
And then, she does it. She tells him. Melanie Lynskey crushes it as usual, but what I really love here — as someone who has been known to react similarly under emotional duress — is Brett’s reaction. A look of shock comes over his face, and then he barfs all over her. Yup.
As an added bonus, here’s Melanie Lynskey talking to me and Melissa Maerz about that scene!